Be a Productive Grandparent by Joanne Rooney, Ed.D.
Becoming grandparents happens sooner than you think. Most of us “grandmas and grandpas” are still active, healthy, and living productive lives of our own. We love our grandkids but realize we have completed our turn to raise children. For most, the realization of that is a “thank God” moment! Yet we love these little (and not so little) kids and want to be part of their lives. Our maturity and wisdom is a needed dimension in their lives.
However, where to draw the line between being a “good grandparent” and the nosey, interfering parent or in-law is fuzzy. The following hints might help us find our way down this rocky road. Note: If you’re not a grandma, consider passing this along to someone who is (or is about to become one).
- Affirm your grandchildren’s parents. They are extraordinarily sensitive to any hint of criticism from parents or in-laws and see criticism even when it is not intended! Find positive and specific things to say often and sincerely. When necessary, bite your lip or just button it up!
- Visit the grandkids regularly and love them deeply. However, although they give meaning to your life, they are not your life and will best appreciate you if you continue to live a rich and fascinating life of your own.
- Enjoy the grandkids outrageously. Laugh at their knock-knock jokes, play dinosaurs, and even get on Facebook so you can talk to them (and also get to really know them!) Don’t analyze their talents or compare them to their siblings or cousins. You are not responsible for their morals, religious beliefs or the way they dress. You have “been there, done that.” They will learn from you only if you love them unconditionally.
- Hold infants close to your heart. They are your greatest contribution to the future. Give them back to their parents for diaper change!
- The 5-10 year-olds have brains that just don’t stop learning. Teach them. Read to them. Take them places their parents won’t, can’t, or haven’t thought of. Listen carefully to their questions. They are often profound.
- Be patient with the adolescents. They are struggling with deep issues – mostly about their own identity. DO NOT criticize their music, addiction to electronic communication, weird choice of clothing and all other signs of transitioning into adulthood. They too, like your own children, will grow up!
- Tell stories about your life and the lives of their parents. These becomes family lore and the glue that sticks families together. Some of these stories might even be true!
- Develop rituals – consistent things that happen when you are with the grandkids. Often their lives are fragmented. “At Grandma’s house we always have Cook Dough ice cream for dessert”. They count on this. It gives them a sense of security.
- Remember birthday and holiday gifts and cards. Skype. Email. Learn their electronic media as that is how they communicate. This lets kids know that, no matter how far away you are, they are hugely important in your lives.
- Keep your children and their spouses in the arms of your unconditional love. They are your grandkids’ parents and need all the understanding and support you can muster! Yet know that, at times, your grandkids and you will carefully join hands outside the circle of “mom and dad”. You may be not only their loving grandparents but also their most effective advocate!
© 2011 Joanne Rooney, Ed.D. All rights reserved.
Joanne Rooney, Ed.D. is an educator, parent and grandmother of 16! She is also the Co-Director of the Midwest Principals’ Center.
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